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COST OF LIVING

‘Huge differences’: How you can save money on Swiss credit cards

Hardly anyone lives without a credit card these days, but have you ever thought of how much this little piece of plastic costs you each year and if you could save? A new Swiss survey provides the answers.

‘Huge differences’: How you can save money on Swiss credit cards
Fees and charges for credit cards vary.Photo by Pixabay

Most people routinely use their cards without giving any thought to fees and charges involved in each purchase.

This all the more relevant when you pay for goods and services abroad because your bank charges a fee for every transaction made outside of Switzerland  — typically, between 1 and 5 percent, depending on the terms of your contract.

However, a new study by an independent online comparison service Moneyland shows that “there are huge differences in costs and benefits” among various cards.

This finding is based on comparison of 168 Swiss credit and prepaid cards, taking into account “all relevant fees for the first two years of use, as well as Swiss franc to euro exchange rates” in 2022.

The study concluded that “many consumers could save hundreds of francs per year by changing their payment cards”, according to Moneyland CEO Benjamin Manz.

For instance, occasional users could save 560 francs and frequent users could see savings of more than 830 francs in the first two years if they were to switch to cheapest cards, Manz said.

Which card you ultimately choose depends on several factors. For instance:

The cheapest credit cards for travellers

If you frequently travel to foreign countries and spend 5,000 euros (equivalent of about 5,000 francs and 5,200 USD) outside of Switzerland every year, or withdraw 1,000 euros per year at foreign ATMs, your best bet is the Silver Multi-Currency Credit Card from Swissquote. It costs 292.05 francs over the first two years of use.

Next are the Gold Multi-Currency Credit Card from Swissquote (392.05 francs); the Coop Supercard Visa or Mastercard (458.95 francs), the Jumbo and Manor Mastercard credit cards from Viseca (463.55 francs), and the new UBS key4 Mastercard Standard (485.15 francs).

READ MORE: How to save on groceries in Switzerland

If you are an occasional user, meaning you spend 200 francs in Switzerland per month and 1,000 euros per year outside of Switzerland, you will get most bang out of the Poinz Swiss Loyalty Card and Swisscard Cashback credit cards.

The study found that over a two-year use, these cards give you more money than they cost you.

How can this be?

As Moneyland explains it, “the cost of using the Poinz card is -25.10 francs, and that of using the Cashback card is -12.30 francs. Both of these are American Express credit cards issued by Swisscard. The reason why the costs are negative is that the cash back rewards you get are higher than the total costs”.

Next the Coop Supercard (Visa or Mastercard), with total costs of 42.85 francs; and the Jumbo and Manor Mastercard store credit cards issued by Viseca, with total costs of 43.60 francs.

“All of the cheapest credit cards for occasional users are free credit cards in the sense that they do not have annual card fees”.

READ MORE: Six no-gimmick websites that help you save money in Switzerland

What about frequent users?

Moneyland defines ‘frequent’ consumers as those who spend 1,000 francs per month in Switzerland, and 5,000 euros per year in foreign countries. It also considers cash advances — five 200-franc withdrawals in Switzerland and five 200-euro withdrawals from foreign ATMs.

This particular group of people would benefit most from the American Express cards from Poinz Swiss Loyalty with total costs of 289.80 francs, and the Swisscard Cashback cards with total costs of 319.80 francs over the first two years.

Next are the Silver Multi-Currency Credit Card from Swissquote (362.05 francs) and the Coop Supercard Visa or Mastercard (454.75 francs).  

Prepaid cards

These are the cards with a credit limit based on the account holder’s deposit.

If you an “average” user, defined as someone who spends 500 francs per month of purchases from Swiss merchants, 2,250 euros per year of purchases from foreign merchants, and makes three cash withdrawals in Switzerland and eight reloads of your prepaid card balance per year, the cheapest card is the Neon Free Mastercard —which comes with the Neon Free bank account.

It costs 26.60 francs over the first two years.

Migros vs Coop: Which Swiss supermarket has the best bonus point system?

Other cheap cards are the Neon Green Mastercard (136.60 francs), the UBS key4 Mastercard Prepaid (216.40 francs), the Postfinance Mastercard Value (241.80 francs), and the Cornèrcard Energy (282.65 francs).

Using cards from digital banks like Neon “is particularly advantageous for travelling”, the study found.

“The reason is that many of these cards have much lower foreign transaction fees and better exchange rates than credit cards and debit cards from conventional Swiss card issuers and banks”, Manz said.

However, prepaid cards are not as widely accepted as credit cards, especially for hotel bookings and car rentals. “For that reason, taking at least one affordable credit card with you when you travel, in addition to cheap cards from neobanks or other debit cards, is a good idea,” Manz pointed out.

Another tip for travellers using Swiss cards abroad: “Always choose the local currency for card payments, and never Swiss francs…this lets you avoid high currency conversion fees”.

What else should you know about Swiss credit cards?

Another consumer comparison site, Comparis.ch, has also rated commonly used credit cards using its own criteria. You can see the results here.

READ MORE: Seven products that are becoming more expensive in Switzerland

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COST OF LIVING

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland's childcare costs are among the world's highest, although there are some ways to save. Originally from the United States but now raising children in Zug, writer Ashley Franzen takes you through some of the most important things you need to consider when finding childcare in Switzerland.

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland has a peculiar dichotomy when it comes to childcare. Although many parents both work full-time, Switzerland has traditionally been hands off when it comes to childcare support for families with children under five, leading to some of the highest childcare costs in the world. 

For older kids there is before and after-school care that is offered by the canton, but for younger kids who haven’t quite started kindergarten, it can pose problems for parents who are in need of reliable care, particularly those who don’t have grandparents to rely on. 

According to the Swiss Federal Council, “Grandparents as well as daycare centres and extra-school care facilities are the most frequently used forms of childcare, with each category accounting for a third of provision for children aged 0 to 12 years. 81 percent of families in large cities turned to extra-family care for their children compared with 66 percent of families in rural areas. Parents’ satisfaction with the care facilities is high, but there is still unmet demand.” 

What alternative childcare options do I have in Switzerland?

There are various childcare and nursery options for babies and toddlers up through young children aged five or six. Each canton offers childcare, though often there are lengthy waitlists for available spots.

READ ALSO: ‘A developing country’: Why do so few Swiss children attend childcare?

An alternative might be a private or bilingual daycare, but the costs for these are even higher than the locally-run childcares, and sometimes have longer waitlists.

Get on a list early as it’s important to get the ball rolling on paperwork, especially as a foreigner in Switzerland. 

An alternate option is to find the equivalent of a Tagesmütter, or a carer who opens up their home to taking care of up to four children at a time, when there is space available.

The costs remain about the same, but it can be easier to get placement for childcare with an in-their-own-home carer.

Some families opt to hire a nanny, but it may not be possible financially for all families. As for bringing an Au Pair to join the family, there are specific rules and regulations in Switzerland surrounding pay, number of hours they can work (about half of which you would need to be present for), and language rules– the main one being they cannot speak the same language as the family. Additionally, language classes are stipulated for the duration of their stay. 

Suffice it to say, that there are quite a few hurdles to overcome and in order to make sure your family is supported with reliable childcare to meet your needs.

Below are five things to consider as you plan out and organise childcare in Switzerland.

Children play with educational tools. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

1. Compare the options

Childcare in Switzerland is top notch, albeit expensive, so make sure you take the time to figure out where you want to enrol your child.

Some of the best programs are actually run as not-for-profit organisations, such as KiBiz in Zug.

READ ALSO: What alternative childcare options do I have in Zurich?

Most daycares offer a pedagogically strong curriculum and having them at a local daycare gives your child the opportunity to learn the local language. 

2. Decide on someone to name as your emergency contact

This can be a bit harder if you don’t have family or friends nearby, but double check with a colleague or someone that you trust in the case of an emergency or illness.

Finding a colleague that is willing to help by picking up the kids when they were sick when both parents find themselves out of town can be incredibly helpful. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

3. See if you qualify for subsidies

According to the OECD, Switzerland has the highest cost for childcare among wealthy countries. Cantons are in the process of trying to increase the amount of money they’re able to allocate for assisting families with the costs.

If your household income is under a certain amount (it varies by canton), then it might be possible to have some of the costs of your family’s childcare covered. 

4. Consider having a babysitter or two on hand that you can call

As a foreign parent in Switzerland, sometimes it makes sense to have someone extra to call on for help with childcare coverage– even if you don’t think you’ll need anyone.

Meetings get moved, appointments need to be rescheduled, and sometimes there’s the odd school workday, where kids do not attend classes.

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

In situations like these, having someone to reach out to, who can help provide coverage (and perhaps even the occasionally date night) helps provide a safety net for parents that might not have any backup to call at the spur of the moment. 

5. Be open for and prepared to have a hurdle or two, be it language or logistics

Many of the institutions around the country, particularly for younger kids are really good at filling in the parents on what the kids have done during the day, what they’ve eaten, how they’ve acted. The seemingly hardest part is actually filing the paperwork and piecing together care, particularly if you don’t speak the local language.

Wendy Noller is originally from Australia, and now lives in Luzern with her husband, and their two children, aged five and seven.

When they were getting signed up for Kita, she expresses that there were quite a few hurdles to consider.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

Initially they received a letter from Canton Luzern stating that there weren’t enough places for their daughter. “We had heard negative reviews from other expats, but learned that there really are a lot of myths around childcare– that it’s not good quality, or there aren’t enough places. My husband and I work 100 percent and [when registering the kids], found the local authority to be both very helpful and responsive.”

She adds that she would call or email every couple days after receiving the letter to express that they both worked full-time and were really interested in their daughter integrating.

In the end, just a couple days before school started, they were told there was a place available for her. 

While their situation had a happy ending, sometimes other backup plans need to be put in place. Organising childcare in Switzerland is doable and having a fellow foreigner who has gone through it before to help share their experience or how to go about it can make a difference in how easy or how difficult it feels. 

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